Biggest Diamond Heist (2015) in British History Uncovered

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Biggest Diamond Heist in British History
The Hatton Garden Job (Source: IMDb)

If you have watched the movie The Hatton Garden Job, then you already know what the biggest diamond heist in British history was like, but if you have not, then for starters, this story is based on the biggest burglary in British history in 2015 by some older men. The Hatton Garden Job is based on the same.

Hatton Garden
Hatton Garden (Source: The NewYork Times)


It is a story of the real-life heist that happened in the Hatton Garden area of London, in April 2015. In total, it’s thought that the thieves got away with around 270 million dollars worth of jewels that were kept in what was supposed to be a very secure vault though some experts dispute that number.

The fact is that the guys that did the job were mostly old, grey, bald, and even mortally ill. The “old baggers” as they were called or “the grandad gang,” as called by the french press, are probably the closest thing to “ocean’s Eleven” out there. None of those that took part was a stranger to the criminal underworld, that’s for sure and the grandads had been stealing for a long long time. But let’s have a look at the crime itself before we look at the criminals.

The gang had been planning the heist for around 3 years. This is known because police found evidence that they’d been checking out powerful drills for a number of years before the robbery. It seems they settled with Hilti DD350 drill, which costs close to $5,000. The gang had watched the place for a long time, understood the security systems, knew more or less about what was held in the vault and they’d already set up ways of laundering the goods.

Just like you see in movies, this was a carefully worked out operation. They’d even been tampering with the elevators. It was later found out that one woman who talked to police said the elevators had one day been really slow. She said she’d seen an older-looking guy in the lift that day dresses in a blue workman’s overalls carrying a tool bag. Let us just say he wasn’t a workman, as was later discovered.

When staff locked the doors for Easter weekend, April 2nd, 2015, one of the men called “Basil” was in the building. He let four other men in through a fire door. They took in with them waste containers on wheels and a whole load of tools, including that huge drill. The gang had earlier worked out how to rig the elevator and it stayed close to the basement. The men then lowered themselves down the elevator shaft. They had also tampered with the alarm system as well as systems that control the heavy iron doors.

When they opened the first iron door, it triggered an alarm, but when a security guard was called to go and check, all looked normal. Next, the men had to drill the final six and a half foot thick wall to the vault and all the security boxes. They had some trouble in there as some of the equipment didn’t work and they couldn’t get to some of the goods, but the cheeky blighters didn’t worry, they went back the next day to finish the job.

Police found no signs of forced entry from the outside, and also found no forensic evidence to work with. It was as if ghosts had been in the building. For this reason, at first police thought it must have been an inside job. Describing what they found in the actual vault, police said in a statement, “The scene is chaotic. The vault is covered in dust and debris, and the floor is strewn with discarded safety deposit boxes and numerous power tools, including an angle grinder, concrete drills, and crowbars.” And they would probably have gotten away with it, if they had understood modern technology.

This gang was old school, and what got them arrested in the end was CCTV spotting their van, and evidence they had done the heist recorded on mobile phones. As police had a car registration to work with, connected to lifelong criminals, they just needed solid evidence. That was the recordings. One of the investigators called the gang after they were caught, “Analogue criminals operating in a digital world.

They lacked the knowledge to defeat digital detectives.” Indeed, police listened to the men talking on their phones, with one of the gang saying, “If we get nicked, at least we can hold our heads up that we had a let go.” Nicked is a UK term for arrested. As the Guardian wrote after the arrests, “Like good old-school criminals, they left no fingerprints, but forgot that the traces left by mobile phones and Freedom Passes linger longer than a thumbprint.

londons diamond thieves great hattongarden heist
(Source: Google Images)

It turned out these men were career criminals with links to other big multi-million-dollar robberies in the UK, and some of them were also friends of underworld figures from the past, such as the notorious Kray Twins. The ringleader was said to be 76-year-old Brian Reader. He was arrested with the other boss, 67-year old Terry Perkins (who had since died in prison). The other two main members were 63-year-old Daniel Jones and the getaway driver, 75-year-old John Kenny Collins.

They were sentenced to either six or seven years, which isn’t too steep, but given their age, it might mean they won’t experience freedom ever again. They were also ordered to pay back around $36 million, or face another seven years in prison. The judge did sound almost sympathetic when he sentenced the men, saying, “A number of these defendants are not only of a certain age but have, in some cases, serious health problems.” Brian Reader is said to be gravely ill, and it’s doubtful he has long to live.

Three other men were also arrested for their involvement in the crime, aged 48, 58 and 60. As for this guy called Basil that first got into the building, it’s thought he still has around $13 million worth of the loot, although police believe they have discovered some of that. Now nicknamed “Basil the Ghost” by the press, it’s thought he may be 57-year old named Michael Seed. Overall, it seems, loose lips did indeed help sink ships, but they came very close to pulling off one of the biggest heists in history.

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